Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill introduced

Date: 1st May 2020
Category: Civil Rights and Freedoms

The Bill aims to do three things; update existing laws, bring most of these laws into one bill and add to the groups currently specifically protected by hate crime laws. 

People are currently protected by specific laws based on:

  • disability
  • race (and related characteristics)
  • religion
  • sexual orientation
  • transgender identity

This Bill adds age to that list and allows sex to be added at a later date. In addition to this, the Bill creates a new crime of stirring up hatred against any groups with the protected characteristics including age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity, and variations in sex characteristics. It also intends to abolish the offence of blasphemy, based on the rationale that the offence of blasphemy has not been prosecuted in Scotland for more than 175 years. By modernising, consolidating, and extending hate crime legislation in Scotland, Scottish Government hopes the new Bill can be consistent, relevant for the 21st century, and user-friendly.

Scottish Government has published a blog and supporting tweets with a view to alleviating any possible concerns or misunderstandings about the Bill. In addition, Scottish Government have published an Easy Read version of the General Overview Note which can be found on the Scottish Government’s hate crime webpage along with eight topical information notes on some of the Bill’s provisions.

Hate crime involving children has a profound impact on their physical and emotional wellbeing and is associated with lifelong social, emotional, cognitive, and physical problems. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is clear that discrimination, violence, harassment, and bullying are unacceptable and violate a range of rights. Therefore, Together is pleased to see the addition of age as a protected characteristic and the introduction of the Bill makes it clear that hate crime is unacceptable within society.